History 101 “The Prince” by Niccolo Machiavelli Book Report
“The Prince” by Niccolo Machiavelli was written in the Renaissance Era, also known as the time of enlightenment. It’s an interesting book, as it functions as a more of a manual then a literary work. Machiavelli seems to be addressing a particular audience, royalty, such as princes or high-ranking nobles. “The Prince” is a rule book that now, 500 years later can be enjoyed by everyone.
The first chapter is super brief, about a paragraph long. It discusses princedoms, and the variety of princedoms. The second chapter is also brief, albeit a bit longer then the first. Chapter 2 focuses on princedoms inherited through a bloodline, such as a monarchy. A good example of this is England, where the throne is inherited by an heir when the previous king or queen dies. The third chapter introduces a mixed princedom, a monarchy crossed with a democratic voting and taxing system. Machiavelli uses the Romans as an example of how this princedom should be ruled. The forth chapter explores two princedoms: those that have sole ruler and those that have more than one ruler. This chapter cautions the prince, telling him to not let his people revolt. Instead, use Alexander the Great as an example, as his subjects didn’t revolt against hi successors. Chapter 5 explains how to govern a formerly free state. Machiavelli gives three suggestions: 1. Annihilate them, 2. Live in that city or city state, 3. Let the city state be free, but rule it under an iron fist to dissuade an uprising. Chapter 6 states rules about how a prince rules his kingdom that he acquires either by force or the subjects submit to him as their new ruler. Machiavelli says if the prince is moral, then it will bring him success with his subjects. Chapter 7 talks about princes who gain their princedoms with the aid of others, such as a prince becoming one due to his father’s status or fortune. Machiavelli uses Duke Valentino as an example of how not to rule. Chapter 8 discusses how princes become princes by committing crimes, such as murder or fraud-including money laundering-and inducing fear into his subjects. He gives examples of such men: Aciathocles the Sicilian and Oliverotto of Ferno.
Chapter 9 begins by focusing on a new princedom- a civil one, r a princedom where princes become one by election by the nobles or commoners. Machiavelli gives advice for two instances: If the prince is elected by the people, treat the people well. If the prince is elected by the nobles, then seek to reconcile with the people. Chapter 10 discusses how a prince’s strength should be measured: by the ability to stand alone but also the ability to ask for help. Machiavelli uses Germany as an example of a perfect balance of standing alone and asking for help, and how the prince should do so. Chapter 11’s subject is ecclesiastical kingdoms. Machiavelli uses this chapter almost as a warning saying that having no laws in place and just a formed religion doesn’t make a good princedom. He uses examples of princedoms that didn’t last and used this method. Chapter 12 is concerned with the soldiers that the prince enlists in the militia and paid mercenaries. Machiavelli warns against those who are treacherous and cowardly, as they would kill the prince and destroy the princedom. He uses his home country of Italy as an example. Chapter 13 cautions against the use of hiring mercenaries that are ruled by another master. King Louis of France made that mistake, causing France to go into an economic depression. Rome also made this blunder with the Goths, causing a revolt and the Goths consequently overthrew Rome. In Chapter 14, Machiavelli states that the main thing a prince should think about is war, and he should be prepared for it in times of peace. If he instead revels in pleasure, then he will lose control of his kingdom. In Chapter 15, Machiavelli lists traits that are good in a prince-generosity, mercy, and the like- but then says afterwards the prince can’t be too good, as that will make him be perceived as naïve and weak. In Chapter 16, Machiavelli urges princes to be liberal, using Julius Cesar and Alexander the Great as examples. Machiavelli then states that a prince shouldn’t be cruel, as that would turn his subjects against him. Chapter 17 follows 16 in subject matter, exploring the balance of cruelty and being feared. Machiavelli believes that a prince should be merciful, but not so much that he is taken advantage of. The prince also shouldn’t be cruel but should be feared to an extent; not too much to foster hate, he later explains. Chapter 18 is a bit confusing, as Machiavelli seems to be contradicting himself. Machiavelli says that a prince should trust his subjects, but then later says that those who don’t are more successful. In Chapter 19, Machiavelli discusses how a prince should avoid being hated. He explicitly directs a prince not to steal from his subjects, using Roman emperors who did and suffered the consequences for it.
Chapter 20 deals with how a prince should arm or disarm states under his control. Machiavelli states they should disarm new territories to prevent revolt but rearm them when they become part of his kingdom. Chapter 21 deals with what characteristics an ideal prince should have. He should be a complex character; a loyal friend and deadly foe who doesn’t join in on an attack of another princedom. This ideal prince should also show his merit to people and have horror for art. Chapter 22 emphasizes the importance of having a good secretary for a prince. A good and loyal secretary reflects a good and moral prince. Chapter 23 cautions against listening to flattery. He believes that flattery can distract a prince and the prince may fall. In Chapter 24, Machiavelli critiques princes in Ital, as they made mistakes that caused them to lose their states. He urges princes not to follow their example. Chapter 25 closes with a quote from Petrarch, asking if Italy is strong enough to withstand barbarians. Said barbarians aren’t specified, but Machiavelli fears barbarians taking over Italy.
I found the book interesting, but also kind of boring. This book would be more entertaining to a certain audience, such as scholars or students interested in the early history of Western Civilization. It was good, I just wasn’t blown away by it.